Back in print, “a wry and moving . . . rare and minute accounting of growing up.” (Time)
Exiles is the story of two glamorous people—one, a beautiful aristocrat; the other, a self-made man, one of the most famous authors of the 1920s. In this slender volume, which was nominated for the 1970 National Book Award and helped reestablish the memoir as a genre, Michael J. Arlen evokes—with humor and honesty—his parents’ seemingly charmed life in Hollywood and New York, his own childhood spent between homes and boarding schools, and the decline of a family full of love, joy, and pride in one another: in other words, a family as ordinary as it is unusual.
“[Exiles] reads like something out of Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night . . . [Arlen] judges his parents; he judges himself, and does both with a wonderfully hard-won honesty . . . The great thing about Exiles is not what it reveals about either of the Michael Arlens but what it confirms about this author’s strange and eloquent style.” —Geoffrey Wolff, Time
“One would be forgiven for wanting to read Exiles on the merit of its name-dropping glamour alone, even if glamour is only the tenth best thing about the book . . . It reveals the lives of three extraordinary people and it carries the author toward his soul’s interior, there to come to terms, both in his mind and in the reader’s, with the essential condition of being an exile.” —Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
“[Exiles] is an impressionistic portrait of an emotional landscape, deftly drawn, striking in its imagery, and subtle in its suggestion of the disappointment and betrayal that ultimately blighted these lives. Arlen summons brilliant scenes that distill the unhappy way in which the past and the promise of the new malfunctioned.” —Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe